Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Kevin James, Mr. Paul Blart himself, decided to take on a serious role? What if that role were that of a jacked-up neo-Nazi who terrorizes a family at their lakeside home? Boy and howdy, wonder no more, for here comes Becky, a solid, exciting, jarring, and exceedingly violent suspense film from the directing team that brought you “Cooties” and “Bushwick.”
Comedic actors trying out dramatic roles is nothing new, and sometimes it doesn’t work, like Bill Murray in “The Razor’s Edge.” Sometimes it does work, like Robin Williams in “One Hour Photo.” In Becky, James’ Dominick is a skinhead who’s escaped from a prison transfer with three of his buds just so he can get to this one particular secluded house to find the film’s MacGuffin, a key. Dominick is part Hulk, part Brainiac, muscular and intelligent and also completely nuts. Well, anyone who spouts off about the master race and uniting a Brotherhood is not going to be looked upon as a sane fellow.
It all starts when dad Jeff (Joel McHale, “Ted”) picks up his teenage daughter Becky (Lulu Wilson, “Annabelle: Creation”) from school in the middle of the day. His plan is to take her to their lake house for the weekend. You see, Becky’s mom passed away a little while back from a long illness, and the poor girl has been sullen and temperamental ever since. You know, like a teen. Anyway, when she learns she and Dad are heading to the house, she assumes he’s finally sold the property, as he’s been trying to do for some time. Naturally, Becky doesn’t approve of this, as the house is a reminder of her beloved mom, a memory she wants to hang on to. But her worries are for naught, as Jeff announces that he’s decided to keep the place. No sooner does Becky get to celebrate this good news, though, than Jeff’s fiance Kayla (Amanda Brugel, “Room”) and her young son Ty (Isaiah Rockcliffe, “Random Acts of Violence”) show up — oops, Becky was so sullen her dad didn’t get a chance to tell her ahead of time! Resentment is thence the soup of the day in Chez Becky. Rough start to a no-doubt fun-filled weekend!
It’s going to get worse, and quickly. Dominick and his Merrie Men show up, looking for their mysteriously important key. And henceforth, Becky plays out like a higher-octane mashup of “Die Hard” and “Home Alone,” minus the alone part. Because while they look for the key and hold Jeff, Kayla, and Ty at gunpoint, the fourth member of their ersatz family is at large — specifically, in the woods surrounding the house. And thus begins the cat and mouse game, because Becky has the key and Dominick has the family.
I know, you’re probably thinking, can this weekend get any worse? And of course it can, because our directors — Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion — have decided that pretty much nothing is off limits when it comes to unrelenting, vicious maiming. I’m talking bloody like Nicolas Cage in “Mandy,” but instead of Nic Cage it’s a 15-year-old girl and some pencils. (John Wick reference? Maybe.) This is one cat and mouse game that’s probably not going to end well for either species. It’s a revenge pic that takes no pity on any character. People who have it coming to them get theirs. People who are innocent get theirs as well. But it’s not all for shock and awe effect, no sir. The characters behave with more logic than I’d expect from a home invasion movie without skimping on the brutality. I liked that.
For a guy who’s long relied on his comedic chops, James holds his own here. In fact, if it weren’t for his voice I might not have realized it was indeed Kevin James. Perhaps he’s no threat to De Niro, but it’s nice to see someone step out of his comfort zone and do pretty well. But if you thought this movie (and this review) was all about Big Star Kevin James, you’re so, so wrong. Take a good look at Lulu Wilson, the vengeful teen with a chip on her shoulder, along with any home-brew weapon she’s managed to find. Wilson is staggeringly good at the savagery bit, but still imbues her character with a certain vulnerability. You can’t help but root for her even as she starts down a dark, lonely path. I hope we see more of her.
There are plenty of “OMG WHAT” moments in Becky, in terms of shocking violence, but now that I’m sort-of warning you about them you might not be shocked at all. Well, try to forget I mentioned it. I confess to watching some of the grislier scenes between my fingers, and I typically like this sort of carnage. Anyway, I liked the movie and think you probably will too.